UAE to get new digital-only bank with Zand, with Mohammed Alabbar as Chairman
Banking|: Dubai: A new full-scale digital bank - 'Zand' - is set to open in the UAE - and becoming the "first in the world" to offer both retail and corporate banking services. In a statement, Mohamed Alabbar, the Chairman, said: “As the first fully independent digital bank in the country, with a full UAE banking licence, Zand will provide innovative, effective financial solutions that help simplify businesses and lives, addressing the needs of both retail and corporate customers.” Zand will be "unique in focusing on ecosystems and communities of businesses and individuals, enabling it to introduce unique products and services not traditionally available," the statement added. Work in progress Zand is awaiting regulatory clearance to go live. Its website is still static and asks visitors to register their interest for updates. Some of UAE's mega-banks already have gone live with their digital banking spinoffs, while in Abu Dhabi, the holding company ADQ could soon be launching one. “Backed by strong shareholders and working with the best bankers and technologists, we’ve built a bank that delivers on the promise of understanding and meeting customer needs," said Zand’s CEO, Olivier Crespin. "From our systems to our processes and our team, we're built and ready, and we're looking forward to welcoming the first customers soon.” The UAE combines progressive regulations with commercial, financial, and technology hubs. This provides the perfect environment for a world-leading digital bank that can launch in the UAE and scale beyond Mohammed Alabbar, Zand's Chairman
Emaar Properties approves dividend distribution, 10% of share capital
Property|: Dubai: Dubai developer Emaar Properties will distribute a cash dividend representing 10 per cent of the share capital, upon a proposal by its board of directors. The general body of Emaar Properties approved the dividend distribution proposal at its 25th annual ordinary meeting on Sunday. A new nine-member board has been elected. The new board includes Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Jassem Mohammed Abdul Rahim Ali, Ahmed Thani Al Matroushi, Jamal Majid Khalfa bin Thaniah, Butti Obeid Butti Al Mulla. The board members also include Iman Mahmoud Ahmed Abdul Razzaq, Ahmed Jamal Jawa, Heliel Saeed Salem Saeed Al Marri and Sultan Saeed Mohammed Nasser Al Mansouri. The dividend distribution reflects Emaar's keenness to ensure a value added to its shareholders. The board discussed the company’s performance in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to safeguard business performance. The 2020 report on the company’s activities and financial position and the auditor’s report were also approved during the meeting. Emaar recorded overall property sales of Dh10.9 billion ($2.96b) in 2020, while it handed over more than 72,100 residential units in Dubai and international markets, with more than 26,000 currently under development in the UAE and 12,000 units in global markets. Mohamed Alabbar said: “We have been able to maintain our market position, despite the challenges caused by the pandemic and are looking forward to the development of our future innovative projects. We continue to redefine Dubai’s property landscape.” "We remain committed to creating communities and transforming lifestyles for our customers locally and internationally by setting new benchmarks in design, building quality and innovation that continuously offer outstanding experiences and lifestyle opportunities across market sectors,” he added. Last month, Emaar Properties merged with Emaar Malls.
Canadians should expect 'significant' move in budget for child care, early education: LeBlanc
News/Politics: Access to national early learning programs and child care have become an “economic imperative” and Canadians should expect a “significant” announcement in the forthcoming federal budget, said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Emaar reports 2020 property sales of Dh10 billion, appoints a woman to its board
Property|: Dubai: Emaar Properties reported 2020 property sales of Dh10.90 billion on Sunday and said it appointed a woman to its board. Emaar recorded property sales of Dh6.321 billion ($ 1.72 billion) in the UAE alone. The developer said it handed over more than 72,100 residential units in Dubai and international markets, with more than 26,000 currently under development in the UAE and 12,000 units in global markets. “The performance reflects sustained interest from investors, both domestic and foreign,” said Emaar in a statement. The shareholders also elected a new board of directors composed of 9 members, including a woman. This comes after UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) made it compulsory for listed companies to appoint at least one woman to their boards. The new board includes Mohamed Alabbar, Jassim Al Ali, Ahmad Al Matrooshi, Jamal Bin Theniyah, Buti AlMulla, and Eman Abdulrazzaq. Abdulrazzaq, Emaar’s new female director, is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Emirates NBD, UAE’s largest bank. Prior to that, she was with HSBC for over 17 years performing various roles. “By nurturing and developing our talents within Emaar, coupled with our constant digital transformation and product innovation, we have set the benchmark for future growth and long-term value creation for our shareholders,” said Mohamed Alabbar, Founder, Emaar Properties, in a statement. “We have been able to maintain our market position, despite the challenges brought by the pandemic and are looking forward to the development of our future innovative projects,” he added. With the recent merger of Emaar Properties and Emaar Malls that was announced on March 2, 2021, the entities will continue to pursue “the satisfaction of commercial and regulatory conditions until further notice,” the statement said.
Govt may hike FDI limit in pension sector to 74%;
Last month, Parliament approved a Bill to increase FDI limit in the insurance sector from 49 per cent to 74 per cent. The Insurance Act, 1938 was last amended in 2015 which raised FDI limit to 49 per cent, resulting in foreign capital inflow of Rs 26,000 crore in the last 5 years.
Ministry of Economy extends deadline for registration in anti-money laundering regulations until April 30
Business|: Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Economy (MoE) announced the extension of the deadline granted to Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) to register in the systems approved for countering money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, until the end of April 2021. The extension has been granted due to a large number of companies in the sector coming forward to register in the last days of the previous deadline, which expired on March 31, 2021. Furthermore, the unusual circumstances faced by companies and the business sector in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic has also been taken into consideration. The Ministry explained that it is mandatory for the targeted companies, which include brokers and real estate agents, auditors, dealers of precious metals and gemstones, and corporate service providers, to register in the goAML system and the Automatic Reporting System for Sanctions Lists before the end of the new deadline. The registration in these systems can be done free of cost. After the registration, they should also take the specified measures to ensure full compliance with the requirements of Federal Law No. 20 of 2018 on anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism and illegal organizations, and their implementing regulations and relevant decisions. The Ministry called on the concerned companies to take advantage of the new extended period for registration to avoid the penalties and fines stipulated in the law, which will be imposed starting from May 1, 2021. Fines start from AED 50,000 and go up to AED 5 million, while the penalties for companies that fail to register could even lead to the revocation of the license or closure of the facility itself. "The goal is not to impose violations, but to ensure compliance, and the decision was taken considering the conditions that various companies and business sectors are going through as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions on a global scale," said Abdullah Sultan Al Fan Al Shamsi, Assistant Undersecretary for the Monitoring and Following-up Sector at the Ministry of Economy.
Global markets: Stock set to rise on upbeat earnings
Markets|: Dubai: Another corporate earnings season is set to begin, and analysts evaluate how that could be a positive catalyst for global stocks in the weeks to come. What is widely expected to be largely an upbeat first-quarter company earnings, top US banks will be the first to report this week, setting the tone for the remainder of the season. Stocks to rise this week On the economic front, there is some key figures, the most watched of which is the US consumer price index data out on Tuesday – which will be closely eyed by investors after a surprise jump in inflation in March. In the US stock markets, which are tracked by indices worldwide, key benchmarks, the Dow and S&P 500, are seen starting the week at record highs after a strong rally on Friday. The Dow rose nearly 2 per cent last week, while the S&P 500 gained 2.7 per cent. The Nasdaq gained the most, rising 3.1 per cent. The Russell index was down 0.5 percent. Upbeat US earnings With the S&P 500 index at record highs, valuations are stretched heading into the season, leaving some investors looking to earnings for further support. US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, in comments this past week, continued to reinforce that the central bank will keep its easy policies in place for a long time, and that any emergence of inflation should be temporary. However, a key US price inflation data released last Friday, which came in much higher than expected, has made the consumer price index release Tuesday even more crucial. US banks to report first In the US, the world’s biggest economy, the big banks kick off the reporting Wednesday, with JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Bank of America and Citigroup report Thursday and Morgan Stanley reports Friday. PepsiCo is also among the first to report. The consensus for the first quarter is earnings are supposed to be up between 22 per cent to 30 per cent, given that last year’s comparison figures came in lower-than-usual because of the pandemic. Another positive sign is that estimates overall have been rising heading into the earnings period. Estimates typically drop ahead of a reporting period after companies give conservative outlooks. Caution among investors Still, some analysts fear that investors will be disappointed after the sharp run up in earnings expectations, which could dent stock prices after a months-long rally led by economically sensitive stocks. Investors are optimistic companies will offer more guidance now after being reluctant give projections at the start of the pandemic. “We'll probably see more companies giving outlooks,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at US-based Inverness Counsel. “That will give the market a lot of confidence.” Lackluster appetite in Asia, Europe The China CSI 300 index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index each fell more than 1 per cent Friday. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.1 per cent to a new record. China data showed consumer prices climbed 0.4 per cent on the year in March, driven by fuel price increases, while factory prices climbed to a more than two-year high. While China has enjoyed a strong rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, some investors fear that global inflation could spread from China and force central banks to take action at some point, possibly interest rate increases. Higher rates tend to negatively affect stock prices.
How did the UAE's wealthy change their spending ways in COVID-19 year: Julius Baer
Markets|: Dubai remains an appealing location for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in 2021, according to Swiss Wealth Manager Julius Baer’s Lifestyle Index. Dubai now ranks in 12th place on the Index, which rates 25 key cities worldwide, up from 17th position a year ago. The results were announced in Julius Baer’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021, the second edition of the publication following the inaugural edition released in January 2020. The Lifestyle Index tracks the price of a basket of goods and services representative of a HNWI lifestyle in key cities in Asia, the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Using the Index, investors can estimate the portfolio returns needed to preserve, or even grow, their purchasing power. READ MORE GCC to lead Middle East's post-COVID economic rebound: IMF flydubai says will only fly MAX with regulatory approval after reports of India denying airspace Global markets: Stock set to rise on upbeat earnings “If you combine [a] relatively attractive cost of living with the location, the weather, the tax regime… for a wealthy person [Dubai is] an attractive place to be,” said Mark Matthews, Head of Research Asia Pacific, during a roundtable discussion to mark the launch of the report. Dubai’s biggest advantage lies in the price of residential property, according to Matthews. “It’s only 9 per cent of what it costs in the most expensive place – which is Monaco,” he said. “It’s certainly an attractive feature.” Apart from property, other bargains in Dubai are hard to come by, according to the report. Jewellery is slightly cheaper than the international average as gold tends to be cheaper in the UAE because it is subject to fewer taxes. However, most Index items are priced at the international average or higher. Dubai is amongst the most expensive cities to buy alcohol: it is the second most expensive place to buy wine after Mumbai, and the fourth most expensive place to purchase whisky after Manila, Shanghai and Jakarta. The report notes that the UAE economy took a hit from the COVID-19 outbreak shrinking by 8 per cent in 2020 with employment falling to the lowest levels since records began. However, Julius Baer is optimistic that the UAE is now in recovery mode. “The situation is beginning to stabilise,” the report noted. “With its growing emphasis on research and development, technological advancements, and innovation, there seems little doubt that the country will bounce back as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021. Julius Baer expects the UAE’s non-oil economy to expand by 4.2 per cent this year and return to pre-crisis levels by mid-2022. Overall, the report showed that Asia continues to be the most expensive region in the world for high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and the three most expensive cities remain Shanghai, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. The Americas is the most affordable region to live a luxury lifestyle. A theme of this year’s report is the extent to which the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted HNWI consumption patterns. The collapse of global tourism in 2020 impacted this year’s index. The luxury category with the biggest price increases is business class flights, jumping 11.4%. Ladies’ shoes and hotel suites had the biggest declines falling 11.7% and 9.3% respectively. The report also noted that the “conscious consumption” movement is gaining momentum with COVID-19 boosting consumer commitment to, and awareness of, buying ethically and sustainably.
Oman exempts 500 food products from VAT
Oman|Business|: Dubai: Close to 500 food products commonly used in Oman will be exempt from Value Added Tax once it comes into effect, local media reported. VAT is expected to come into effect across the country on April 16. Under the scheme, the number of basic food commodities charged a zero rate VAT will be increased to 488 from 93. Electrical consumption Furthermore, all VAT charges related to electricity consumption for citizens who have up to two residential category subscriptions will be paid by the government. This includes families that were previously eligible for government support for the two connections. The amount of subsidised fuel that people who have signed up for Fuel Support Cards can buy at reduced prices has also been increased from 200 litres to 400 litres per month.
Lebanon needs new government, radical change of direction, says IMF
Business|: Dubai: Lebanon cannot pull itself out of its economic crisis without a new government to transform the country and launch long-stalled reforms, a senior official at the International Monetary Fund said. The country defaulted on its debt last year, sending its currency crashing. Its economy shrank by 25% in 2020, the IMF said in a report last week. A standoff over the make-up of a new government has intensified in recent months, delaying a revival of funding talks with the Washington-based crisis lender. "The change of direction cannot be done on a piecemeal basis. It requires a comprehensive approach," the director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, Jihad Azour, told Reuters. Reforms should focus on the financial sector, public finance, governance, corruption and loss-making utilities that have contributed to a surge in debt, he said. "In (the) absence of a new government that can lead this transformation, it's very difficult to expect that the situation will in itself improve," he added, joining a chorus of officials calling for an end to wrangling over the cabinet. Lebanon's crisis started before the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerated after a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, stored unsafely for years, exploded in the capital's port in August last year, killing 200 people. International support through grants was needed, Azour said. "Lebanon needs some large financing in order to jumpstart the economy again in order also to allow Lebanon to be on a recovery path that will take time but is highly needed." Lebanon needed to rebuild confidence among citizens, investors and the international community," he added. "This reform package is the starting point. And for that you need to have a new government who will lead the implementation of this reform programme."
GCC to lead Middle East's post-COVID economic rebound: IMF
Business|: Dubai: Oil exporting countries in the Middle East, especially the GCC will lead the post-COVID economic rebound in the region according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The latest Regional Economic Outlook (REO) from the IMF said the available real GDP data in the region point to a strong rebound from the third quarter of 2020 as countries relaxed lockdown measures. Oil exporters Higher oil prices and early vaccine rollouts support the outlook for many GCC economies. The recent increase in oil prices will boost confidence, supporting non-oil GDP, which is projected to expand by 3.3 per cent in 2021. The IMF revised growth rates of GCC economies significantly upwards from its last update in October 2020. The latest REO has forecast the UAE and Saudi Arabia to grow 3.1 per cent and 2.9 per cent in 2021 against estimated contractions of 5.9 per cent and 4.1 per cent. In its October 2020 report, it had forecast 1.3 per cent and 2.6 per cent growth for the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East, countries with above-average fiscal support in 2020 are expected to return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in 2022. Image Credit: IMF While Oman is projected to move out of recession this year with a 1.8 per cent GDP growth, Bahrain is projected to grow 3.3 per cent. Kuwait is forecast to grow at the lowest rate in the GCC with 0.7 per cent; Qatar has a slightly better growth outlook at 2.4 per cent for 2021. Oil activity will remain subdued in the short term, reflecting the OPEC+ production curbs and continued US sanctions on Iran. “Within the region, countries with above-average fiscal support in 2020 are expected to return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in 2022. In contrast, those with below-average support will not see a return to 2019 levels until 2023,” said Jihad Azour, the IMF’s Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department. Purchasing managers’ indices (PMI) of most GCC countries returned to expansionary territory by mid-2020 and continued to signal an upward trend in some oil exporters such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE. The fiscal balances for oil exporters are expected to improve significantly, reflecting higher oil revenue. The increase in oil prices is expected to markedly improve oil exporters’ external position. Their current account balance is projected to increase by $128 billion. Rising debts to curtail long term growth outlook The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday countries in the Middle East and Central Asia need to curb their financing requirements, as a surge in government debt, exacerbated by the pandemic, threatens recovery prospects. Overall the outlook remains highly uncertain and recovery paths will diverge depending on the speed of vaccinations, reliance on heavily impacted sectors, such as tourism, and countries’ fiscal policy. The crisis led many countries in the region to raise debt, partly taking advantage of abundant liquidity in the global markets, to afford extra spending needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The IMF warned that financing needs are projected to increase over the coming two years, with emerging markets in the region likely to need around $1.1 trillion during 2021-2022 from $784 billion in 2018-2019. Oil importers Oil importers in general showed contraction though less so than during the pandemic’s first wave, as lockdowns were re-imposed. Workers’ remittances also held up better than expected. Flows rebounded in the third quarter of 2020 after a sizable drop in the second quarter, reflecting a combination of factors, including a broad improvement in third quarter growth in remittance-sending countries, an accelerated switch to formal transfer channels because of border closures, and incentives for electronic transfers. The recovery in oil importers is expected to be sluggish in the near term, with growth projected at 2.3 per cent in 2021—a downgrade of 0.4 percentage point relative to October. Growth projections for Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, which are highly dependent on tourism, have been marked down. Egypt and Pakistan’s economies, which were relatively resilient in 2020, are forecast to experience a sluggish recovery in 2021. Lebanon is the only country in the region where activity is expected to contract further, reflecting the deep economic and financial crisis that has been worsened by the pandemic’s second wave. Inflation is expected to remain at double-digits in fragile and conflict-affected states such as Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen driven by domestic macroeconomic instability. With the recovery underway, fiscal balances are expected to improve across the region, because of higher revenues and the expiration of pandemic-related measures, and the resumption of fiscal consolidation in some countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, and Pakistan with elevated debt burdens. High financing needs could constrain the policy space required to support the recovery, as many countries would need to address fiscal and debt challenges. Average public gross financing needs in 2021–22 in the regions’ emerging markets are expected to remain elevated, reaching 37 per cent of GDP in Bahrain and Egypt per year.
UAE fund Mubadala May join $12b Aramco oil pipelines deal
Energy|: Abu Dhabi: Mubadala Investment Co. may join a group investing $12.4 billion in Saudi Aramco's oil pipelines, according to a spokesperson for the Abu Dhabi wealth fund. The $232 billion fund is in talks with US investor EIG Global Energy Partners LLC, the lead member of the consortium, the spokesperson said, adding that a final agreement has yet to be reached between the two parties. Washington-based EIG and Aramco, the world's largest oil company, announced the deal late Friday. The group will buy 49% of Aramco Oil Pipelines Co., a newly-formed entity with rights to 25 years of payments for crude shipped through the Saudi Arabian firm's network.